Friday, November 30, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cranberry Bars, aka the Perfect Christmas Dessert

Before we get started in the kitchen (chocolate = happy dance) I wanted to remind you about our giveaway going on right now- there are 2 great prizes (retail value $75.00 each)... Click here to enter. Thanks to everyone who has commented so far and given me some great suggestions about the Newsletter!

Plus, my buddy Pat Sloan is also having a Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza! Click here for details on that one.... I will be on Pat's radio show on December 10 and I'm so looking forward to it. I hope you will tune it, because it's going to be fun!

Finally, be sure to check out the Give, Paint, Color! Charity Event hosted my friend Brenda Pinnick! This fun class will be held on December 6, the proceeds benefit Toys for Tots, and there will be giveaways too! It's sure to be an enjoyable and enriching time- Brenda is a wonderful artist... Click here for details.

Now.... hold onto your girdles.... Guest blogger Samantha has been in the kitchen making Dark Chocolate Cranberry Bars...

Let the holiday baking commence! 
Knowing my family, it is no surprise that once we sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, whilst stuffing ourselves with turkey and potatoes we began to discuss what we would be making and eating for Christmas. We are always one meal ahead!  I love the holiday season, as many do, because of the baking opportunities.  And when I think Christmas, I think cranberries... yum...

A couple months back I found this recipe of white chocolate bliss bars, just like the ones that Starbucks make.  She had me at Starbucks.  I tried the recipe out and thought it was great... except I am not a huge white chocolate fan... and as I was eating them I couldn't help but think, "Wouldn't it be great if these were chocolate?"

And so here we are.  Because once I start thinking about cranberries and dark chocolate, there is not stopping me.  Hold onto your hats, because I will be in a dessert frenzy until I get my cranberries and dark chocolate.
That being said, these are the perfect treat to bring to a Christmas party.  The chocolate is dark and serious, while the cranberries bring in that bright sweetness every once in a while to change the pace.  I am kind of in love with them.  Don't tell my husband!

Here's what you'll need...
For the Bars:
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries, loosely packed
To Make the Bars :
 Preheat oven to 350F. Line a pie pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside. In a medium sized bowl, stir to combine the butter, egg, brown sugar, and cocoa powder. Add the milk, flour, salt, and stir until just combined, taking care not to over-mix or the bars will be tough. Fold in dark chocolate chips and cranberries and stir to combine. Scoop batter into prepared pan, smoothing it lightly with a spatula or offset knife if necessary.
Bake for about 20 minutes, and center is set, edges begin to slightly pull away from sides of pan, or a toothpick comes out clean; do not overbake. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then carefully life aluminum foil out of the pie dish, and peel away from the sides of the bars. Allow bars to cool completely before frosting them. While they cool, make the frosting.

For the Frosting and Topping:
3/4 cup dark chocolate, melted
4 ounces cream cheese, softened (whipped or light may be used)
2 tbsp milk
1 ½ cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup dried cranberries, loosely packed (optionally, roughly dice them if the pieces are larger)
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
 In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the dark chocolate on high power, about 1 minute, reheating in 10-second intervals, or until it can be stirred smooth; use a double boiler if that's easier.
Combine cream cheese, melted dark chocolate, milk, and confectioners' sugar, and beat until smooth and fluffy. Start by mixing on low speed so sugar doesn't spray, and then beat on medium-high for about 3 minutes. Mixture will seem stiff at first but will loosen and fluff up to a smooth velvety texture; stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Frost the bars; if you have excess, it will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least 1 month.
Evenly sprinkle cranberries and dark chocolate chips over the top of the frosted bars. Allow bars to set up for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. Bars may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Do you have any baking secrets you use for the holidays?  Any "secret weapon" recipes? Share them in the comments!

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Your Suggestions, Please! & A Giveaway, Too!

Hey there, everyone! I am in need of your help! I am incredibly fortunate & blessed to be able to spend my days in my studio and kitchen, dreaming up new creations and projects. Putting together the newsletter is another thing that I really enjoy doing- it allows me to "play" in lots of different mediums and then share it all with you, my lovely readers! I do truly appreciate that you take the time to read what I've written in my blog and newsletter. That being said- I'd like to make the blog and newsletter even better! I would love your feedback. We are planning on rolling out some changes in the next several months to make both the blog and the newsletter more attractive and easy to utilize.  (But the Newsletter will remain FREE, published about 7 times per year. If you are not already a subscriber but would like to be, you can sign up here.)

(If you would like to see previous issues, click here to go to the Newsletter archives.)

Right now the Newsletter features recipes, simple craft projects and decorating ideas, etc.

  • Is there anything else you'd like to see? Other topics you'd like to see covered?
  • What do you like most about the Newsletter?
  • Is there anything you wish we'd just rid of?  (Please be honest- if there is something you dislike or find distracting, we would like to know...)
  • Should it be longer? shorter?
  • More photos? Less photos?
  • Do you have suggestions for changing the format?

******Also, right now the entire newsletter lands directly in your inbox- would you be opposed to having to click over to your browser (i.e. the interwebs) to view the newsletter? By placing the newsletter in a magazine format on the internet, it would be more attractive and easier to read, but would require you to click away from the email- would this discourage you from reading it? (This is a very important question- your feedback will determine the new format we choose for the newsletter.)

Oh, and I'm so tired of saying "Newsletter" over and over- so boring! I would love some suggestions for a new name. Something catchy, or homey & comforting, or relating to creativity....

So in order to entice you to respond (and not very subtly, either!) I am hosting a Giveaway...
Leave a comment here with your suggestions, or email me your suggestions (subject line: Suggestions Giveaway). There will be 2 winners- one will be my favorite suggestion, and the other will be randomly chosen from all comments and emails, so everyone will have a chance. If you have any suggestion- even if it seems small or you don't think it's great- please let me know! You never know where the best ideas will come from! (I've been referring mostly to the Newsletter, but I would also love your suggestions regarding my blog- content, layout, colors, frequency of posts, etc.)

Please comment or email by Tuesday December 4, 2012 (11:59 pm EST) to be entered in the Giveaway. (Of course, after that deadline, I would still be most interested in your feedback- any time...)

Oh wait! I almost forgot! Each prize will include:

These are fabulous prizes- the retail value on each prize is $75.00. Wow!

Thank you in advance for taking the time to give me your ideas and suggestions- it is truly, truly appreciated (big hug here)!

So........ since we are talking about the Newsletter, here is a preview of what's in store for the December issue, which will go out at the beginning of next week. (The subscription is free- you can sign up in the upper right bar of this blog. By signing up, you will only get the newsletter approximately every other month, no other emails from me- unless something incredible happens that I have to share, like if Brad Pitt and George Clooney are both my houseguests for the weekend, I will probably let you know... otherwise, I won't clutter up your inbox....)

December's Newsletter will feature:

Our family recipe for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Free Printable Holly-day Tags

Instructions to make your own (inexpensive) Sparkly Tree Forest

Holiday Kitty & Friends Pattern

We celebrate festive RED....

Recipe for Apple Hazelnut Gorgonzola Mini Tarts
(a scrumptious appetizer for your holiday get togethers.....)

PLUS: Details about our upcoming sale....

Thanks for your participation and good luck on the Giveaway!!!
(Feel free to pass this on to your friends via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. 
I would love lots & lots of feedback... Thank you.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Things I Love: Black Friday Edition

Guest blogger Samantha has some lovely holiday gift ideas for you! I have my eye on a few of them....

Well, I guess you could say it's official... It's the day after Thanksgiving, and therefore, it's CHRISTMAS TIME!  I usually try to hold off on decorations, music, and everything until the first week of December, but when it comes to shopping, I need to get it all out of the way ASAP.  So you know I've been scouting my Black Friday favorites for a while now.  Now, I will not be one of the crazies getting out there at 3 AM (will you? Good luck....), but I will be taking advantage of Cyber Monday, the online version of Black Friday.  Here are some of my favorite gifts this year for the special people in your life...

1. Your Mom: Mom will love this very cool herb planter for inside her kitchen.  No more going outside or having to buy herbs in the cold months, and she can label whatever she has growing on the chalkboard frame!  The planter is available at Williams-Sonoma for $129.95.

2. Your Younger Sister: I asked my sister what she wanted for Christmas this year, and she very simply told me, "Tea."  This collection comes in a bunch of different flavors, all with fun names! I particularly like, "Just Chai Me" and "S'oolong Lazy."  The best part, though, is that the labels are pretty colors that can be displayed all year round, even when the tea is long gone!  You can get this tea collection at the KitchenStories shop on Etsy for $16.00.

3. Your Niece or Daughter:  This may sound strange, but children's clothing is my favorite.  I wish they made them in big people sizes.  Especially this dress.  It is so cute.  I can picture it with pink tights and ballet flats, or leggings and boots.  Whatever little girl you have in your life, she is sure to love it.  Just don't buy yourself a matching dress, much as you want to.  You can find this dress at H&M for $24.95.

4. Your Cat:  Even the pets need little something this holiday season, and I know for a fact that my cat would love this little tent.  You can order it from ModCloth for $24.99.

5. Your Dad or Husband:  My husband is a pretty big music enthusiast, so he pulls me into a record store whenever possible.  In case you haven't heard, vinyl is coming back! So break out all those old records you have stashed away, and transfer them to your computer with this USB compatible record player.  This is such a cool gadget that any guy will appreciate, even if he doesn't have a record collection yet!  You can pick this up at Best Buy for $99.98.

6. Your Best Friend: Nan Lawson is one of my favorite artists of the moment.  She does some really sweet pop culture illustrations as well as inspiring words, like this print here.  I always want to build up my girlfriends, so I can't think of a better gift than something that is pretty AND uplifting! You can order an 8 x 10" print from Nan's Etsy shop for $16.00

What do you have in mind for your loved ones this year? Are you braving the Black Friday insanity, or are you sleeping off yesterday's Turkey Coma?  Whatever you do, enjoy!

Happy (Late) Thanksgiving, and happy weekend!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Throwback Post: Giving Thanks

I have been sitting here trying to figure out what to say about Thanksgiving that hasn't been said a hundred or a thousand times already.... I was going through some of my old posts and found this one from 2008- it seemed to fit perfectly how I am feeling this week....

You turned my wailing into dancing;
You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

that my heart may sing to You and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give You thanks forever.
Psalm 30:11,12

It seems a shame to me that we set aside only one day a year to focus on thanks and gratitude. I know that I need to be thankful more often, it sometimes seems that days go by without me whispering even a few words of gratitude to God. I just get so caught up in the day to day stuff of life, that I forget how blessed I really am....

For God's unwavering and fierce love for me....

For an imperfect yet completely wonderful family....

For friends who would drop anything and everything to come to my rescue, if need be....

For the opportunity to live in a country where I can say what I want (even if I'm wrong), where I can worship Whomever and however I want, where I have a say in our government.... I don't think that here in America we really realize how remarkable that is.... The freedoms we have can only be truly appreciated if we go to other countries and experience the fear and control that people live under on a daily basis....

For never being in need of food, clothing, shelter....

And for the OPPORTUNITY to help others out of my blessed abundance and gracious plenty...
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48

As Americans, we live in the wealthiest and most prosperous country in the history of the world...

Sometimes, I think about the silly things that I allow myself to get upset over.... But still, sometimes things just hurt.... disappointments in life, loved ones letting us down or hurting our feelings.... not tragedies, but still painful. Sometimes I think that I have no right to ever get upset about things, because there are people in our world who deal with tragedy on a daily basis... who will never know peace... who will never know how it feels to not go without, even for one day.... 

But I realize that God, while His heart breaks for these tragedies, feels my pain too. He knows. He knows my disappointment, my hopelessness and helplessness at times. He knows that life is oftentimes painful, for all of us. And as our Father, He understands.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:6,7

I know everyone is so busy this time of year. Personally, I like the busyness- for me it is fun, joyous- shopping, decorating, singing along to my favorite carols. But the busyness sometimes makes it easy for me to forget just how much I have to be thankful for.

I would ask that everyone take just 10 minutes and visit one of the sites listed below. See the work that God is doing, through the hands of His servants here on earth. Please take time to be thankful for what we have, and for people who are willing to help others even on the far edges of our world (and in our own towns). Please pray for these organizations, for their workers, and for those who contribute monetarily to them to make the work possible. Maybe you will be moved to make a donation to one of these worthy organizations, to help them continue their work.

World Vision

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. Hebrews 12:28 

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. In addition to Thanksgiving preparations, Samantha (my daughter and guest blogger extraordinaire) and I have been busy working on the December Newsletter. In a few months there will be some exciting changes to the newsletter! It will still be free and full of recipes and projects, and we will continue to publish it about 7 times per year. If you would like to subscribe [yes, it's FREE :)], you can do so at the upper right bar of this blog.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Get Away From It All... Lancaster County, PA

Today, guest blogger Samantha takes us on a tour of one of my very favorite places, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (aka Amish Country):

Earlier this week, my husband and I went to a conference at Willow Valley Resort in Lancaster.  While we were there, we had some down time and decided to visit some of my favorite places in the area.

We visited some shops, saw some of the lovely farmhouse architecture, and of course, went to Kitchen Kettle Village, which is a tourist village that has some of the most delicious food and drinks.  We stopped at The Roasted Rooster for some cider and pumpkin spice lattes...

And oh myyyyyy, was it good.  We also visited my very favorite place in Lacaster, The Jam and Relish Kitchen, where jams, jellies, relishes, and salsas of all varieties are jarred and sold.  You can actually peek into the small kitchen in the back to see the Amish girls working on the batch of the day! It is really fascinating.  The best part though, is that there are samples of EVERYTHING sold in the shop!  It could quite easily be a full meal...

Visiting Lancaster really is a special treat for me.  I love getting to be out in the country with all of Pennsylvania's rolling hills.  It is truly inspiring to see the simplicity of the Amish way of life, and it reminds me to slow down sometimes and enjoy all things beautiful.

By the way, if you are not familiar with the Amish- they are a religious sect which eschew modern ways of life- they dress "plain" (women in dresses, men in black), they drive horse drawn buggies instead of cars, and don't use electricity. If you are interested in learning a little more about them, you can read an article here and here.

Last, on our way home, we stopped at Terrain, which was a very special treat, since there are only 2 locations in the country! (Terrain is a garden/home goods shop that is owned by the Anthropologie folks).

They are getting ready for Christmas! I can't believe the holidays are here this soon, but I am delighted that they are.  I am hosting Thanksgiving this year, and then comes Christmas shopping and Christmas baking and Christmas music!  I am a junkie for it all!
Are you ready for the holidays? Extremely excited, or totally terrified? How are you finding ways to rest before this hectic season begins?

Happy Weekend!

A note from Jacquelynne: Congratulations to Christine in Australia and Karrie in Michigan who won the giveaway last week!! Your prizes are on the way! And thanks to everyone for their very nice comments about my block tutorial. I was not able to respond to everyone, but I did read each and every comment (with a big smile on my face.)
Also, I have had to turn on the captcha again for comments. I really hate to do it, but spammers somehow found their way past the filter, and in a 48 hour period, I had no less than 70 spam comments posted to my blog- all for prescription drugs. (If anyone out there needs Tramadol or Ativan, let me know- I have a long list of sources for you now....) Sorry for the inconvenience- I hope you will still leave comments!!  :)  Maybe I will try turning it off in a week or so and see what happens......

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sweet Potato Casserole

I like cooking. But sometimes I don't. Sometimes I am really in the mood to spend a whole day in the kitchen. And other times, I can go an entire week without a bit of culinary gumption. This week happens to be a week when I am in the mood to cook. (Of course, next week I will have to cook for Thanksgiving- maybe I should pace myself this week??)

The other night I was really in the mood for sweet potatoes, so I made a sweet potato casserole. It was really good! A delicious prelude to next week's Thanksgiving feast.... Creamy sweet potato base (not too sweet) topped with a generous crunchy, nutty topping (I am intolerant of skimpy toppings, aren't you?)

The sweet potato casserole was a bit time consuming (peeling the potatoes, chopping and toasting nuts for the topping, etc.), but really well worth it. Since I spent a lot of time on my side dish, I made the rest of the meal ridiculously simple- baked chicken breast and spinach sauteed with a bit of chopped onion and olive oil. I do this a lot with my cooking- I choose one or maybe 2 dishes that I will spend a fair amount of time on, and then go super simple on the rest. It makes the meal special, without having to spend a whole day in the kitchen.

Also, this casserole can be done a day ahead, so you could make it on a Sunday for Monday night dinner (just pop it in the oven when you get home from work), or it would be a tasty addition to your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner (for those big dinners, I do almost everything a day or 2 ahead so I can actually enjoy the holiday, and hopefully not have a melt down in the kitchen on the big day itself!)

 Click here for a FULL SIZE PRINTABLE version of this recipe for your collection.

This recipe calls for sweet potatoes OR Southern yams.... the difference between sweet potatoes and yams seems to cause a lot of confusion... so I did a little research. Apparently, true yams are difficult to find in the United States. Most "yams" sold in the U.S. are what are considered to be "Southern yams"- very similar to, and almost interchangeable with, a sweet potato. A true yam is native to Africa and is much larger and starchier (not as sweet) as Southern yams. So if you are shopping at a typical supermarket in the U.S., be assured that sweet potatoes and yams are almost the same and can be substituted for each other in most recipes. OK, botany lesson over :).

I am going to try (really, really try! I think I can, I think I can.....) to do a December newsletter (if you're not already a subscriber, you can sign up in upper right side bar of this blog.) There will be lots more messes in the kitchen this week as I work on a new recipe or 2 for that. You can click here to go to the Newsletter Archives. Each issue has free recipes, patterns and projects. Oh, and did I mention that it's free?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hurricanes and Hope

First, let me say thank you so much for all of your prayers for those of us here on the East Coast of the United States a couple of weeks ago. Our family and home here in New Jersey weathered the storm without injury or property loss. This is quite amazing, and I would say miraculous, given that the eye of Hurricane Sandy passed directly over us.We are only about 80 miles from the shore, which has been the victim of unimaginable devastation, as you know.

We were well prepared for the storm. Our power tends to go out fairly often, even when other neighboring homes do not, so we assumed that we'd be without electricity for a week or more. On Saturday, my daughter's school made the call to cancel school for Monday and Tuesday, and my husband was also told not to come into work. We had the generator hooked up, moved everything we possibly could off of the basement floors, had plenty of bottled water and canned food and batteries for the flashlights. We kept our crucial devices plugged in all day so that we would have them fully charged when the power inevitably went out (who could live without their cell phones, lap tops, and iPads in this day and age?!?)  And then on Monday, the day of the storm, we waited. The rain picked up, the winds howled. All local programming on the television was pre-empted by news coverage. We settled in with books and magazines, waiting for the power to cut out. By dinner time, we were sure the electric would go out at any moment, as the winds whipped fiercely and the rain poured down relentlessly. We ate dinner early, thinking that surely this was our last chance for a hot meal for the next several days! And we waited, and waited..... and went to bed with power still intact. Actually by bedtime, the winds died down to almost nothing- the eye of the storm passing over. Early in the morning, around 2 a.m. the winds picked up again. And then we awoke the next morning- to power in our home, and gray drizzly skies.

As I said, this was truly miraculous. My husband and I are no strangers to the devastation that a hurricane can cause. In 1989, when we were first married, we were living on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands where my husband worked for an oil company. The forecast for Hurricane Hugo was dire, and we were evacuated to a large metal warehouse on the company property, since getting off the island at that point would have been difficult or impossible. The hurricane made landfall on St. Croix on September 17 through the night till the 18th. That night was the most terrifying of my life.

We sat in the warehouse, as the storm raged outside. Sleep was impossible! The roof began to pull away from the building, but managed to stay in place. We had to move to different areas of the warehouse, as we would settle into one place and then it would start flooding. At one point, some men knocked out the wall between our warehouse and the adjoining fire station so we could get in there. More than once, we thought that the building might blow away, taking us with it. The storm had stalled over St. Croix, with winds reaching 140 miles per hour, pounding and beating away at the island for hours upon hours.

The next morning, after the hurricane had passed, the warehouse doors were opened, and the sky was a weird, eerie green color. We saw palm trees, sheared in half. We saw rows and rows of concrete foundations, where houses had used to stand- there was literally nothing left of the homes but the poured concrete foundations. Somehow, somehow, our house was spared. It sat snug against a little hill, which we believe protected it from the fierce winds. However, the back wall was caved in and roof separated from the house- and a washing machine (not ours), sat in the back yard. Apparently, the winds had hurled someone's washing machine into the back of our house. Our car, however, was totaled-  all of the windows crushed in and it was full of debris from the storm.

Power was out on the island for over a month. There were riots at the gas stations. Store owners sat on their roof tops with machine guns, trying to keep looters away from their shops. After about 4 days the National Guard was sent in to get looting under control. When they were able to, about a week later, my husband's company sent in a plane with food for their employees and families.

So, yes- I know what hurricanes can do. To this day, I hate the wind. If there are strong winds outside, I put earplugs in my ears because I cannot shake the fear that something bad will happen, something will get destroyed. I have seen people lose everything.

And yet, going into this event, I was peaceful and calm. I actually surprised myself.  It wasn't that I was ignorant or oblivious to the possible imminent destruction- on the contrary, I was quite aware of how deadly these storms can be. But we prepared, we prayed, and then we waited. In the past I would have made myself physically ill with worry. But I felt at peace that we would be cared for.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

Perhaps this is something that comes with age and wisdom- faith that somehow, everything will be OK. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually. And worrying does not lessen the chances of bad things happening. The best you can do is prepare and hope for the best.

I painted the little poster at the top of this post with a quote that I like by Corrie Ten Boom, a holocaust prison survivor. I have created a PDF version to share with you- you can print it out and hang it up if you would like. It is a good reminder, not just on difficult days, but every day.

Please continue to pray for the people of this area- so many have lost so much. My husband was able to go on Friday with a group of men from our church to help with the clean up.

If you would like to make a donation, you may do so at Samaritan's Purse (the organization which is doing a lot of relief work in the area and organized my husband's trip there). If you would like to make a donation directly to a local organization, you can click here.

Thank you again for your continued prayers- they are much needed and appreciated.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Apple Cider Doughnut Muffins

Guest blogger Samantha is making my mouth water today! You might need to hit the gym after just reading this post!

Fall has been so very good to me! Apple picking, long walks, and play time with my kitten, along with a visit from my mother-in-law and some much-needed time off from my full time job.  And in that time, I got to putting together some yummy recipes to pass off to my coworkers when I returned.  This is one of those recipes, however, I didn't really want to give up.  I was inspired when we went apple picking and was totally tempted by the apple cider doughnuts. I love how dense they are with the cinnamon-sugar topping all around.  That's the kind of feeling I tried to get in these muffins and, not to brag, I think I succeeded.
Here's what you'll need:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp apple cider sauce or regular applesauce
2 eggs
2 tsp baking soda
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Topping –
3 tbsp butter
6 tbsp cinnamon-sugar mixture
1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place baking cups in a 12-cup muffin tin and lightly grease the insides. Set aside.
2.  In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together butter, oil, sugars and apple cider sauce. Add eggs, beating to combine, until mixture is smooth. Stir in baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.
Add the flour to the butter mixture alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Stir to combine well. The batter should be light and fluffy.
3.  Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into one of the center muffins comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes.
4.  Melt butter for topping. Dip the tops of each muffin into the butter, then roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place on a cooling rack to cool completely.

And there you are! Delicious muffins that are good for breakfast, brunch, or dessert.  I used the apple cider sauce that I got at a local farm stand, but regular unsweetened applesauce can be used as well.

What have you been up to this fall? Any wonderful farm stand finds?  Tell me all about it!
Happy Weekend!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Glorious Autumn Quilter's Block Party

Welcome! Today it is my turn for the Glorious Autumn Quilter's Block Party, sponsored by Quilting Gallery! In case you are new, here is what's going on: Michele at Quilter's Gallery is sponsoring a block party for 15 weeks. Every week there are 3 FREE block patterns/tutorials by 3 different designers.
That's 45 FREE BLOCK PATTERNS!!! Yippeeee!!!!!!  There are also many manufacturers providing "Super Deals for Quilters," i.e., special offers and sales.

I have answered some fun questions as part of my designer profile:  How many UFO's do I currently have? What was my first quilt? How did I transition from quilter to designer? You will have to go to the Quilting Gallery page to find out!

There's a Flickr page, too, so you can see what other folks have been up to with these free block patterns.

And there's a giveaway.... 2 prizes, folks!

My block is called Autumn Jewel Box, and it features my Fruitful Hands Fabric line:

With this block, you can make quilts like these:

You can click here for a PDF of this tutorial.

Here is how to make this block:

White- cut 4 squares each 3 7/8"
Red Floral- cut 4 squares each 3 7/8"

Cut these squares in half diagonally to create 8 triangles each:

Cut a strip, 2" x about 15", from each of the following fabrics: Orange Dot, Green Floral, Red Texture, Green Texture:

(Don't worry about trimming the selvedges off now.)

Sew the strips together along long edges:
 (Why is it that the cat is most interested in me when I am trying to get something done??)

Trim off the selvedges and cut this unit into 4 units, each 3 1/2" wide:

Sew the red and white triangles together into 8 squares (sorry I forgot to photo this step!!)

Sew 4 of the squares into pairs like this, and then sew the pairs into a square:

Sew the remaining 4 squares to the ends of 2 of the strip units (note that the red triangle is adjacent to the green rectangle, and the white triangle is adjacent to the orange rectangle):

Sew the remaining 2 strip units to the large square:

Sew the block together as shown above. This yields a 12 1/2" (12" finished) block.

That's it! Hope you enjoy making this block!

As mentioned, there's a giveaway- with 2 prizes. Each prize will contain fabric from the Fruitful Hands fabric line, plus a pattern assortment OR an autographed copy of my book, Fruitful Hands. The retail value for each of these prizes is $40-$50.

For the giveaway, you can get up to 3 chances to win:

  • Comment here on this post and tell me your favorite thing about the Autumn season. 
  • Like my Facebook page, and then comment here that you have done so.
  • Subscribe to my newsletter (see the box in the upper right bar of this blog). Comment here to let me know you have done so.

I must be able to contact you if you win! If your email doesn't show up automatically through your Google or Blogger account, please include it in your comment. If you don't want to leave your email address in your comment, you can email me to give me your address and let me know that you have commented. You must comment by midnight EST on Monday November 12, 2012. Two winners will be chosen at random. Good Luck!

Don't forget to also visit the other two featured designers this week and get the directions for their blocks:

Jo's Country Junction and The Caffeinated Quilter (love that name!)


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